The disproportionate impact of poverty on BAME communities
By Graham Whitham
Many of you will have seen the recent Social Metrics Commission report highlighting the shocking extent to which certain parts of our community are at much greater risk of poverty. The report found that nearly half of BAME UK households live in poverty and many in deep poverty, and BAME families are between two to three times more likely to be experiencing persistent poverty.
The pandemic has highlighted many of the inequalities we were already aware of. The virus has sought out and disproportionately affected some of the most vulnerable in our society. Those who said at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that the virus was a ‘great leveller’ and that the consequences would be felt by rich and poor alike were talking nonsense.
We invited a number of leading figures from the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester, who have been at the forefront of tackling poverty and inequalities across the city region to provide their comments on the Social Metrics Commission figures and what they mean for the fight against poverty in light of the pandemic.
“We were in no doubt that thousands of families were struggling to get by before the lockdown, and that hundreds of organisations want to help them. The lockdown, and the Greater Manchester humanitarian response, confirmed that even more. The FareShare GM team has worked very hard to respond to the need for food aid for years.
To see these statistics, and have confirmed once again the scale of the problem, particularly among certain BAME communities, compared to the scale of our response, is daunting. Without further action from government to address the root causes of poverty, the work of FareShare GM will continue to be needed.
One challenge we face is being able to bring more certainty to our attempts to reach those in most need. To do that we need better data and a more tailored reach, and we need to think about how the intelligence we gather can inform policy and practice in a way that reduces the need for food aid. Like many other practical responders, we will keep on providing important support but the systemic landscape has to change. This really matters.”
“The majority of BAME people in the UK are migrants. Many lack the knowledge of how things work in their new environment and need support to help them settle. Many have suffered poverty because they do not understand the system and the operation of the country, they lack awareness of rights and entitlement. Many, for lack of knowledge of housing rights, have endured living in accommodation which are not suitable for living, examples being damp ceilings, condensation and overcrowding.
In situations where BAME people educate themselves on their environment and the system, they quickly realise that the system is rigged, and a lot of things are out of their control. Some service providers at different levels who are biased or prejudiced or are point blank racist have not always given the right advice or support when a member of the BAME community have asked for help.
Those who migrate to Britain without a degree find it hard to get employment of their choice and are often put in the ‘unskilled labour’ bracket. This makes it hard for members of the BAME community to progress.”
“These figures show huge disparities for BAME communities and these are figures before COVID -19’s big hit on BAME communities. It is shocking and frightening to think what the figures in coming years will say about the huge disparities and persistent inequalities in our western, modern and rich society.
The Social Metrics Commission report should be a must-read for all of us concerned with levels of poverty in our country. It headlines some disturbing and worrying figures for 2018-19 levels of poverty showing some shocking facts.
Greater Manchester is home to a significant BAME population with many districts like Manchester approaching fifty percent ethnic diversity. We should be very concerned locally about what this means for us now and as we begin to understand the aftermath and ongoing impact of COVID on our BAME communities. We need some serious action now!”
“It is shaming that there is growing inequality for BAME households in a rich country like the United Kingdom. There are structural issues including unfair immigration policies that drive BAME households further into poverty depriving hard working people of a level playing field.
Tackling the structural issues driving BAME households into deeper poverty requires a listening exercise for Government to understand the issues with a commitment to right the wrongs. The Government’s commitment to levelling up must be reflected in proportionate investment for communities that have been marginalised for decades and an internal soul searching within institutions like the Home Office that charges BAME households exorbitant fees when they want to remain legally in the UK. Please don’t give with one hand and collect with two hands!
Employers including the NHS also have a crucial responsibility to deal with the race pay gap where there are hardworking BAME people who continued to be under paid and not valued equally like their White counterparts.”
“These findings highlight once again the disparity of outcomes for BAME communities in comparison with the rest of the UK population. The tragedy of Grenfell 3 years ago, coupled with the adverse effect of COVID-19 on BAME people, provide alarming evidence of the failure of systems and institutions for non-white UK residents.
As it stands, BAME communities’ health remains adversely affected by COVID-19; the majority of frontline workers during the pandemic have been those from BAME backgrounds. These findings, therefore, paint a grim picture of the lived experience of BAME people in the UK and deeper work is needed to establish the causes behind these harrowing findings. As Bryan Stevenson, Author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative said: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice”. Justice work is therefore needed to address the often systemic injustice that exists behind these statistics and to establish long-term and sustainable solutions with and for BAME communities.”